Item 8.2 on the agenda for the Yarra Council meeting on 16th March 2021 is a report on the trial of traffic calming in Nicholson Street. The report recommends the installation of raised zebra crossings without a central median barrier. We disagree, here’s why.
Actions to improve safety
The council report is correct to recommend the construction of raised pedestrian crossings on Nicholson Street, and to add bump outs at the intersection with Langridge Street. These are positive, evidence based proposals.
The council report is wrong to recommend the exclusion of the median barrier. This is not an evidence based proposal. The report fails to identify that the southern half of the median barrier can be reinstated at Langridge Street whilst not reinstating the northern half of the median barrier at Mollison Street, to enable the building works at Mollison Street.
The council report is deficient by failing to include a Safe System assessment of the available options, compared with the existing conditions. Despite Safe System forming the core of Australia’s and Victoria’s road safety strategies, the term “Safe System” does not appear in the council report.
The trial of the median barrier was objectively and quantifiably successful, because it:
- eliminated “right hook turn collisions” at both Langridge and Mollison, and
- reduced vehicle volumes on Langridge Street by 37%.
Validity of traffic volume data
The council report is wrong to claim at Item 52 that traffic conditions in February 2021 were unrepresentative owing to COVID-19. This doesn’t match the observed data for Nicholson Street, where traffic volumes were back up to 90% of pre-COVID levels.
The council report is wrong to claim at Item 53 that “the trial ultimately needed to be removed” because this fails to recognise that the southern half of the trial median barrier could have been retained at Langridge Street.
The council report is deficient in failing to identify a further option for councillors to consider, namely:
- Adding two raised zebra crossings on Nicholson Street
- Adding bump outs at Langridge Street
- Retaining the raised zebra crossing on Langridge Street
- Reinstating the southern half of the median barrier (just for Langridge Street)
- Funding the infrastructure works by reducing council’s subsidy of on-street parking
The council report is deficient in failing to highlight Objective 6 of the Council Plan 2017-2021, specifically:
To realise this objective, council needs to create an environment for walking and cycling which does not expose people to hazards that carry the risk of death or serious injury. In other words, council needs to invest in traffic calming and filtering, such as modal filters and median barriers.
The council report is wrong to claim in Item 84 that there are no social implications. The report fails to identify and address a key issue of social justice – the ability of people to get around without a car. There are many cohorts of the population who can’t drive or can’t afford to drive, including children, youth, people on low incomes, seniors, and some people with disabilities. As proposed for the city of New York, council should commit to reallocating 25% of street space away from parking/driving to walking/cycling by 2025:
The council report is correct to identify that financial implications exist. However, the report is deficient in failing to identify options to raise the revenue required to fund investments in safety. If $200k is required, this can be raised by:
- Selling 67 units of a “C1” permit for $3,000 each, or
- Increasing the cost of Yarra’s ~ 30,000 parking permits by $7 each.
Overall, Yarra has options to raise $10m to $30m each year by reducing the subsidy for on-street parking, which could be reinvested each year in infrastructure for walking and cycling, tree planting and place making.
Streets Alive Yarra urges council to improve its reporting. Elected councillors are, in effect, part-time generalists that largely rely on professional advice from full-time specialists. The council report fails to present the full picture, fails to conduct a Safe System assessment, fails to identify a core issue of social justice, and fails to offer options for reforms that would both de-incentivise driving and and provide revenue to fund other already identified actions. Councillors should ask Officers to bring an updated and improved report back to council, addressing these issues.
Published 14th March 2021